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Monday, June 8, 2009

Ambigous Parking Signage in WeHo Looks Like a Ticket Trap

There is an alley just north of Melrose Avenue between San Vicente Drive and Robertson Drive in West Hollywood. The alley is located behind several design showrooms and West Hollywood Park. What makes this alley special and beloved by locals (no, not that alley), is that it boasts a line of that most invaluable of Southern California's urban commodities--parking spaces.
Saturday, June 6, some friends and I drove to WeHo for an event near Robertson and Melrose. I found a single parking spot open in the Melrose-adjacent alley and parked.
But one of my passengers noticed something new. The curb had recently been painted red. There was no indication other than the brand-new, red-painted curb that anything else had changed in the alley.
Admittedly, a red curb might be enough to signal parking was no longer allowed. However, the were still dozens of signs--both signs mounted on tall poles over the alley, and smaller signs mounted on poles where there had once been meters--that indicated a four-hour time limit for parking.
Further complicating the matter was the fact that there were temporary plastic signs, many of which had fallen to the ground, that read "temporary: no parking 6/5/09." This was the 6th. The signs said "temporary no parking" for the previous day.
In addition, there were about three dozen or more cars parked in the alley without tickets.
Keep in mind, this is an area dense with restaurants, bars, a civic auditorium, a busy urban park, several community meeting facilities, and the largest design center west of the Mississippi. Needless to say, finding parking can be a nightmare.
Nevertheless, I left the parking spot and found another--four blocks south on Robertson in Beverly Hills, another city altogether--because I really don't like getting parking tickets. (I know, who does?)
It would have been a $70 ticket. I know because we saw one unfortunate driver's SUV sporting a "parking in a red zone" citation on his or her window.
Safely parked, I wanted to know if the situation was an oversight, and if informed, would the authorities do something to remedy the confusion.
I went to the Sheriff's station across the street and got a very snippy, sarcastic non-answer from a volunteer at the counter. Begrudgingly, I was given the after-hours phone number to West Hollywood Parking Enforcement. The shift supervisor on duty when I called at 6:55 p.m. listened to my description of the situation, which I delivered in much the same way via phone as I have here.
I asked if he planned to enforce the red zone on all of the drivers who had obviously been confused by the ambiguous signage, or wait to start ticketing after the incorrect signs were removed.
He said (and this is a quote): "If they're in a red zone, they will be cited."
But, I insisted, obviously there was confusion, and to penalize people who, during the Great Recession, were dining out and contributing to the local economy in other ways, and had parked in a place known to be legal for years, smacked of revenue-motivated entrapment.
I then informed him that I was no longer speaking as a concerned citizen, but now as a journalist. I asked the parking-encorcement shift supervisor if I could have his name, and if it was Parking Enforcement's intention to disregard the information I had provided about the confusing, new no-parking policy at Melrose Alley (click the play arrow at the bottom of the video image above to see what I mean about confusing signs and the red curb), and ticket everyone parked there anyway.
His answer: "I'm the shift supervisor; that's all you need to know. I'm not authorized to talk to the media." With that Mr. Supervisor hung up the phone. I called back, but my call went directly to voicemail. I left a message, but have yet to get a call back.
By my arithmetic, there were about $2500-$3000 in potential parking citations at the time I decided to move my car. If citations were being issued all night and day--all weekend in fact--the City of West Hollywood may have raked in many thousands of dollars--perhaps more than $10,000--courtesy of Parking Enforcement and their dubious citation policies.


Greg Achen said...

Funny, I got my first parking ticket in 3 years yesterday in West Hollywood, near the Abbey. I parked in a Taxi Zone while my friend and I ran into the Abbey to see if she left her wallet there. The sign where I parked said that it was only a Taxi Zone starting at 6:00pm, and afterward there was a 5 to 6 minute window one could be parked in such a space. The time when I got there was 5:58. But surely I wouldn't get ticketed in the 5 minutes or so that it would take to go in real quick, so we left the car unattended. I was wrong. As my friend and I were leaving the Abbey, she suddenly bolted for my car as we were apparently 30 seconds too late and I was now the proud owner of a $45 ticket that was being written just as we were heading out. Explaining the situation was futile, the parking enforcement guy wouldn't hear it. Apparently he was also intimidated by me in a wife beater since he bolted for his car once I started giving him attitude, saying along the way that the ticket would be in the mail. The jerk didn’t even give me my ticket! We got back at the car at 6:10, apparently 5 minutes past the 6 minute window I had to be parked there. Sigh. Parking enforcement people are truly the cockroaches of the law enforcement world.

Anonymous said...

West Hollywood and other cities, like L.A., are drastically decreasing free or low-cost parking to desperately fill their coffers (six bucks for an hour or so at WH's new lot near town hall as an example . . . parking used to be free at the now-closed lot nearby). Valet parkers consistently snake metered parking even when their assigned lots aren't close to full (I've seen this several times; they also place their signs in front of regular metered spaces to suggest that the parking space is a loading zone or something). Parking citation officers swirl and hover like vultures by meters that are about to run out . . . I've seen that two, so whenever an official says there's no quota being pushed, a lie is being parked right in the red. The cities may be raking in some cash, but what they may not realize this: there are countless of sick-and-tired-of-it people like me that have taken note and only shop and eat in areas and at establishments that offer or are near free or reasonably-priced self-parking. I visit the Grove, Sunset & Vine, Arclight and have a newfound respect for all that Beverly Hills's business district has to offer (city parking everywhere, and inexpensive little restaurants and delis coexist with the chic spots). Hollywood is a joke when it comes to parking, and until the developers there get a clue and follow Beverly Hills' lead, it will continue to be the ersatz, low-rent mess it's been for decades rather than the affordably glam destination they've been shooting for (pity the W owners). Meanwhile, West Hollywood, a relatively rich city with initially altruistic aspirations, seems to be losing sight of sense and going the way of the Madoff Generation, while smack the cash-strapped and out-right poor get ticketed and booted. Yes, people should read the signs, but the signs all say the same thing: No Foresight.

LA Journalist said...

Really Great Comments. Thanks! FYI: I forwarded the link to this post to all members of the West Hollywood City Council

JSD said...

Thanks for this story. I drove through this very spot last night looking for parking. The same conflicting, ambiguous parking signs were there, and the alley was still filled with cars. I did not, however, notice parking tickets adorning any of windshields so perhaps you scared the Parking Enforcement off for a bit.